PORTLAND—The Portland girls’ hockey team has been in the shadow of city rival Cheverus the past few years, but Saturday evening at the Portland Ice Arena, the Bulldogs emerged in a big way.
Thanks to a milestone performance.
Portland standout senior Raechel Allen scored four times, three in the first period alone, the last of which marked the 100th goal of her high school career, as the Bulldogs led from start to finish and vanquished the Stags, 8-3.
Portland also got two goals and a breathtaking assist from junior Drew Barry as it improved to 7-6, dropping Cheverus to 6-7 in the process.
“Beating Cheverus is a big deal,” Allen said. “It was a good game. We passed well and played well.”
Since the Maine Principals’ Association sanctioned girls’ ice hockey for the 2008-09 season, Cheverus has stolen headlines, while Portland struggled to win games.
The Stags made it to the regional final in 2008-09, won the state championship in undefeated fashion two years ago and reached the semifinals last winter, going 48-10-2 over those three seasons.
The Bulldogs, conversely, went 12-37-5 over that span, never qualifying for the postseason.
This year has seen the programs play on equal footing.
Portland opened with four wins in five games, downing Biddeford twice and Lewiston and Gorham once each. After a loss at York, the Bulldogs beat York and Gorham to improve 6-2, but prior to Saturday, they’d dropped four straight, two to unbeaten Falmouth and one each to York and Scarborough.
Cheverus, meanwhile, has been up and down. The Stags opened with a win over Brunswick, lost to York, beat Cape Elizabeth, lost to Winslow, beat Gorham, then lost to Falmouth, Scarborough and York to fall to 3-5. After bouncing back with a victory over Biddeford, Cheverus lost to Scarborough, but answered with wins over Biddeford and Gorham.
The Stags had their way with Portland in 2008-09 (5-1 and 7-0) and 2009-10 (8-1 and 8-0), but last year, the Bulldogs closed the gap, losing just 5-3 and 4-3.
Saturday, they finally got the better of their rival.
Allen broke the ice six minutes, two seconds in, when she scored an unassisted backhanded goal. With 6:04 to play in the 15-minute first period, Barry got in on the act, with an unassisted tally of her own, firing a knuckleball of a wrister past Cheverus junior goalie Emily Rodrigue, the team’s third string goalie.
With five minutes to go in the first, Barry and Allen put on a show that resulted in another tally.
With the Stags on the power play, Barry got control of the puck in the defensive zone. She skated behind the goal, tempted a couple Cheverus players to come at her, then eluded them both. She skated around the defensive end some more, then came back behind the goal and did it again. This time, after getting some breathing room, Barry looked up ice and lo and behold, Allen was all by herself at the red line. Barry’s long pass was right on Allen’s tape and Allen skated in one-on-one with Rodrigue and beat the goalie to make it 3-0 Portland.
“You can’t let them get (the puck) so you might as well kill time,” Barry said. “They didn’t bring it. She was wide open.”
“They weren’t being aggressive,” said Allen. “The coaches were yelling, ‘Rae, move up! Drew, pass!'”
“That was a bit of a backbreaker,” said Cheverus coach J.P. Lavoie.
The Stags answered and made it 3-1 when junior Katie Roy went one-one-one with Bulldogs junior goalie Leanne Reichert and finished, but with 1:20 left in the period, Allen made it a three-goal game.
But this wasn’t just any goal.
After junior Gabi Cardona (who originally attended Cheverus before transferring to Portland this year) started the play, sophomore Ali Briggs got the puck to Allen and she beat Rodrigue for a 4-1 lead.
It was goal No. 100.
“It means a lot,” Allen said. “I’ve been playing for a long time, so to score that many is good, especially senior year.”
“(Raechel’s) an incredible player,” said Bulldogs coach Courtney Rideout. “On and off the ice, she brings so much to the team. She’s a senior. It’ll be a big hole to fill when she graduates. When you think of Portland hockey, it’s Raechel Allen. I know it meant a lot to her. It meant a lot to her teammates. They were as excited as she was. Definitely a great way to go out as a senior.”
Reichert helped maintain the lead in the second period. After Roy missed an open net, Roy had a good look at the goal, but Reichert made the save. Senior Sarah LaQuerre than had a good bid, but again, Reichert stood tall.
“She’s stepped up huge,” Rideout said, of Reichert. “It’s her first year playing hockey, let alone goalie. She’s had huge saves. She’s aggressive and keeps learning.”
Barry stretched the lead to 5-1 when she scored unassisted on the power play with 3:43 remaining in the second and Reichert made one more big save in the final minute, denying Roy again.
Two minutes into the third, Reichert stopped sophomore Alex Logan point blank. With 10:04 to go in regulation, Portland went up 6-1 when senior Lindsey Sneider (the team’s lone player from Deering High) took a pass from Allen and finished. Roy answered with 8:19 to play with an unassisted goal, but just 21 seconds later, senior Kylie Dalbec banged home a rebound of Allen’s shot to make it 7-2.
Roy scored unassisted on the power play with 3:59 to play, but with 1:50 to go, Allen scored one last time, unassisted, and the Bulldogs went on to the 8-3 victory.
“We’ve had a couple losses so this is a big confidence-booster, especially going into the end of the regular season,” said Rideout. “It’s a good way to get back into the swing of it. They played well, passed well and did what they had to to come out with a win. We hope it gives us momentum.”
Portland got four goals from Allen, two from Barry and one each from Dalbec and Sneider. Roy had a hat trick for the Stags.
Goalie saves statistics weren’t available, but both relative newcomers performed well.
“Emily did great,” said Lavoie. “She’s never played goalie before. She made saves. It’s tough to pick up with one day’s practice.”
Portland was 1 of 3 on the power play, while Cheverus finished 2 of 7.
“This could have been an 8-7 game either way,” Lavoie said. “Both teams played really hard. They got breaks and we didn’t get. I thought our kids played the whole game and put a lot of effort into it. I’m proud of them for doing that. Their kids played hard too. It was a really good game.”
Cheverus (fifth in the West Region Heals) is at St. Dom’s Monday and hosts Cape Elizabeth Thursday. The Stags welcome Portland Feb. 2.
“The way it looks right now, it looks like us and them in a quarterfinal in a couple weeks,” Lavoie said. “We have them one more time too. Depending how things go, we feel like we’re going to be OK.”
The Bulldogs (fourth in the West) welcome Scarborough Monday and Brunswick Thursday.
A first-ever MPA playoff berth is within reach.
“We have tough games, but if we play hard like we did today, we’ll be fine,” Allen said.
“If we play like we did out there, we can beat any team in this league,” Barry said.
“We have quite a stretch coming up,” Rideout added. “Making the playoffs would be a big step. This is my third year and we haven’t made the playoffs yet. It would be awesome.”
Portland senior Lindsey Sneider (Deering High’s lone representative on the Bulldogs) finds herself sandwiched between Cheverus freshman Mira D’Amato (26) and sophomore Alex Logan.
Cheverus junior goalie Emily Rodrigue sprawls to deflect the shot of Portland junior Gabi Cardona. Rodrigue, the Stags’ third goalie this winter, made several clutch saves against a sharpshooting Bulldogs squad.
Portland senior Raechel Allen and Cheverus freshman Megan Sawicki battle for the puck.
Seconds after taking a long pass from junior teammate Drew Barry, Portland senior Raechel Allen skates and fires a shot past Cheverus junior goalie Emily Rodrigue to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 first period lead Saturday night. Allen would score four times, including the 100th goal of her career, as Portland rolled, 8-3.
More photos below.